“OF FIRST IMPORTANCE”
Possibly the most heart moving chapter for us in Scripture is today’s 15th chapter in 1st Corinthians – of course, that depends on how ‘alive’ our heart is! Paul writes on the absolute certainty that the resurrection of Christ really happened. It is the foundation of “the gospel in which you stand and by which you are being saved.”]v.1,2] He reminds these former idol-worshippers that “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins … that he was raised the third day …” [v.3,4]
This gave real meaning to their lives, as it does to ours. We can say that if we have real conviction of this event, that conviction becomes the ‘engine’ of the ‘thought processes’ that transform the way we see the meaning of life. How well that ‘engine’ is functioning is evidenced by the priorities we have in daily and weekly life.
The people of Corinth had formerly been idol worshippers, they had believed they had a ‘soul’ that was immortal that it was a blessing when it escaped from their body at death to then lead some sort of immortal existence! There are still some relatively primitive people today who believe this, but far more significant at the moment is the Islamic conviction, from the Qur’an, that the souls of martyrs go directly to paradise – a conviction that is surely a significant factor in the minds of those who commit the atrocities we are witnessing in the world at the moment.
Paul goes on to list the witnesses that Christ rose from the dead; on one occasion “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” [v.6] We reflect the thinking of the Roman Centurions – their thinking was effectively challenged through their contact with Jesus, at least some were convinced of his divine powers, see Matt 8 v.5-13; Luke 3 v.3-6. A Centurion and others with him saw “what took place (at the crucifixion) and they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” [Matt 27 v.54]
Then of course Acts 10 has the account of the conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius – and many with him. Surely the impact of these experiences was the reason why there were so many followers of Christ in Rome in A.D. 63 whom the emperor Nero sought to put to death, according to Roman historians, e.g. Tacitus, circa AD 110. They saw the events of Calvary as “of first importance” – it transformed their thinking, as it did all those who had witnessed him alive after his resurrection – creating the conviction of their own hope of resurrection!
Those alive at his return, and surely that includes some (many?) alive today who truly believe these things are “of first importance” and are baptised, they, says Paul, “shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet … and put on immortality.” [v.51,53] All with this conviction of belief and expectation, will, as Paul expresses it at the end of this chapter, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord …” 1 Cor 14:26 Paul exhorts the brothers and sisters at Corinth and also us, to in all things to builders in the ecclesia. Nothing within the ecclesia can be done for personal gain or pride:
“Let all things be done unto EDIFYING (building up)”
What are we building? Paul again gives us the answer in 1 Cor 3:9 “for ye are labourers together with God, ye are Gods husbandry, ye are Gods BUILDING”
We are to be helping one another to be part of the temple of God, and as Paul exhorts in Ephesians, “a BUILDING fitly framed together (closely joined together)”.
When we think of a building, the same Greek used by Paul “EDIFYING” is 1st used of Herod’s magnificent temple, a wonder of then world.
“As he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what BUILDINGS are here”…”Jesus answering said unto him, seest thou these great BUILDINGS? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mar 13:1-2)
Herod’s temple looked magnificent but was destroyed by fire and an army, because the nation (ecclesia), did not listen to God. We are to builders of a temple to built on firm foundations, which has to stand firm until the end, to Gods glory.